A Coach’s First Season: Pack Get Big ACC Win

January 8, 2010
By admin

kellie-harper-addresses-crowd

NC State opened ACC play Thursday night with a 73-45 win over Maryland in Reynolds Coliseum. Below we’ve got a photo gallery from the game, a game report, and post-game comments from NC State coach Kellie Harper, Maryland coach Brenda Frese and NC State players Nikitta Gartrell and Marissa Kastanek. For a box score and another game recap, go to GoPack.com.

Photo gallery of NC State-Maryland game

The following photos were taken by Peyton Williams.

Report of the NC State-Maryland game

Before their first ACC game of the season under their first-year head coach Kellie Harper, the seniors on the Wolfpack women’s basketball team and redshirt junior guard Amber White held a short meeting.  White told her teammates, “Hey, you know what seniors? We’ve never beaten Maryland. So why not make it tonight.” And boy did they.

Behind senior guard Nikitta Gartrell’s 16 points and 11 rebounds and freshman Marissa Kastanek’s 19 points and six steals, NC State defeated Maryland 73-45 to earn its first win over the Terrapins since January 2005 and to give Harper her first conference victory.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better game,” Gartrell said. “. . . .This was just a great team effort – the whole 40 minutes. High energy, tempo, up and down. And that’s how we like to play, and every game should be like this.”

NC State senior forward Lucy Ellison (five points, eight rebounds) scored the first points of the game on a layup off of a Terrapins turnover, and the Pack never let up or gave up the lead. They made eight of their first 10 shots, including three 3-pointers, to speed out to a 19-4 lead. Six different NC State players scored during the opening run, with Gartrell leading the way with two 3-pointers and four rebounds, en route to registering her second career double-double.

“When you start knocking down shots early, you start to feel good about yourself. And at the same time that we were knocking down shots, [the Terrapins’ shots] were rolling out, and we were getting defensive boards,” Harper said. “From there, it was a snowball.”

During the first half, which Harper called the best 20 minutes her team has played this season, the Pack used an aggressive full-court press and man-to-man defense to tally seven steals and force Maryland to commit 12 turnovers and shoot just 32 percent (8 of 25) from the floor.

Meanwhile, the Pack had just five turnovers, shot 50 percent from the floor (17 of 34), scored 18 points off the Terrapins’ turnovers and made 5 of 11 3-pointers. Kastanek had three of those and scored 14 of her game-high 19 points in the first half, when she also had four of her six steals.

One of those steals came with about 5:30 left in the half. As Maryland tried to in-bounds a pass after White made a layup, Kastanek intercepted the short pass off the in-bounds and quickly converted a wide-open layup to give the Pack a 32-14 lead.

Her last steal of the half came about five minutes later. Maryland was trying to set up a final shot before half when she swiped the ball away from the person she was guarding and directed it to teammate Emili Tasler, a redshirt sophomore guard (3 assists, 2 steals). Tasler pushed the ball up the court, and Kastanek sprinted ahead to retrieve a pass from Tasler and get a layup to close out the half and put NC State up 41-21.

“That’s like sticking a dagger in someone or deflating a balloon,” Gartrell said of the conversions off of Kastanek’s steals.

NC State opened the second half in a similar fashion, scoring the first four points on lay-ups to go up 45-21. The Pack then missed five consecutive shots and Maryland put together seven unanswered points to cut the lead to 49-33. But the Terrapins got no closer. Though the Pack shot just 34.6 percent and had 11 turnovers in the second half, they made 13 of 18 free throws and had 10-0 spurt, fueled largely by its full-court press, during a four-minute span to build as much as a 32-point lead.

“I’m very proud of our team. We’ve had a lot of energy in the last few games, but tonight we had focused energy. We looked very confident on both ends of the floor,” Harper said. “. . . . But really the thing I am most proud of is not on the stat sheet. Our kids played with so much heart and with so much fight and confidence. I’m just thrilled that that is how they played.”

NC State is now 11-5 overall and 1-0 in the ACC. Maryland, which got 10 points each from Diandra Tchatchouang and Lori Bjork, drops to 11-3 and 0-1.

“[The win over Maryland] will be a confidence booster for us. I think our kids feel good about what we’re doing now, and we’ve proved we can do it in the ACC and be successful,” Harper said. “The last thing I told our players is that we have to get better every single day – in practice and in every game we play. We have to get better, and that’s a challenge, because if we continue to get better and better, we can be a very good basketball team.”

Notes: NC State’s next game is Sunday, Jan. 10, at 2 p.m. at Boston College. . . .The Terrapins were the ACC regular season and tournament champions last year, but they lost more than 77 percent of their scoring from that squad to graduation; and this year’s roster features five freshmen and four sophomores. . . . . Maryland was chosen to finish fifth in the ACC in the pre-season poll and NC State ninth.

In a timeout with the Wolfpack

Coach Kellie Harper wore a mic for WRAL. Listen to what she said during a timeout in the following video.

Post-game comments from Coach Kellie Harper

The following is video of Patrick Kinas’ radio interview with Coach Harper following the game.  Her post-game comments during the press conference are after the video.

On general thoughts on the game
I’m very proud of our team. Our kids executed the game plan. We’ve had a lot of energy in the last few games, but tonight we had focused energy. We looked very confident on both ends of the floor. My hats off to the team. They played very well. . . . I thought we were able to keep that focus and maintain our energy level throughout the game. . . . This is definitely our best game, our best 40 minutes, by far. The first half was our best 20 minutes.

On what she’s most proud of from the game
We talked about turnovers as a key for us being successful in the ACC. I thought our kids did a much better job of taking care of the basketball and forcing turnovers. But really the thing I am most proud of is not on the stat sheet. Our kids played with so much heart and with so much fight and confidence. I’m just thrilled that that is how they play.

On building a quick double-digit lead
When you start knocking down shots early, you start to feel good about yourself. And at the same time that we were knocking down shots, [the Terrapins] were rolling out, and we were getting defensive boards. From there, it was a snowball. I really do believe that knocking down some early shots set the tone for us and gave us that confidence that we needed to continue to score and continue to stop them. . . . I think when we knock down some early shots and got some early stops, it just started building that confidence in us and put some doubt in [the Terrapins’] mind. [The Terrapins] are very talented, and they’re very young. They’re going to be good. They’re well-coached, but sometimes that youth may not know how to handle a start like that.

On NC State’s performance in the first half
I have to admit that going in at half-time I was wondering where that team had been in the last few weeks. But I knew we had it in us to play well, and we’ve shown glimpses of being a very good basketball team. Again, we played so hard that we were able to make some plays on the defensive end. And those kids felt really good about what they were doing.

On the players’ feeding off of each other
I think our kids right now are doing a good job of feeding off of each other. If Marissa [Kastanek] makes a good play, everyone gets excited. If Nikitta [Gartrell] makes a good play, everyone gets excited. If Lucy [Ellison] takes a charge, everyone gets excited. That is wonderful to see as a coach because that means you don’t have to make a great play to get excited. If you feed off of each other, that’s what good and successful teams do.

On what the win means for the team
That will be a confidence booster for us. I think our kids feel good about what we’re doing now, and we’ve proved we can do it in the ACC and be successful. The last thing I told our players is that we have to get better every single day – in practice and in every game we play. We have to get better, and that’s a challenge. Because if we continue to get better and better, we can be a very good basketball team. . . . I think it makes a statement maybe to other teams but realistically to our players that we can do this. I’ve told them that we still have a lot of things to work on and that we haven’t arrived. But you have to believe in what you’re doing before you can get a win. And I 100 percent believe when our players take the court that they know what they need to do and they believe they can get the job done. . . . I think the biggest thing right now is the confidence because it’s a long season and a lot of things can happen before that [ACC] tournament in Greensboro. It’s little steps at a time, but I’m glad we got this one.

On what she’ll show the team from the game during film session
I think a lot of times when you show their positives, they want to see those and they’re very excited. And maybe the next game, they’re trying to get more positive clips. I think positive clips are just as good as negative clips as far as teaching the game. I’ll be honest with you, I’ll probably clip the game and let them have it and watch it by themselves and enjoy it.

On the play of senior guard Nikitta Gartrell
Nikitta was tremendous on both ends on the floor, on the boards, on her leadership, on her energy level. She did everything right. I’m proud of her. We need that from her to win big basketball games. And again, I’m so happy for her that she was able to play that well and get this win tonight. . . .If we gave a game ball, I would give that one to Nikitta.

On her first ACC victory
For me, this is a win. I put it in the win column. I did not treat this game any different than our game against Columbia. The preparation is the same. The scouting report is the same. And when you look in the win column, it’s going to be a “W” instead of an “L.” Obviously, it’s great for ACC standings to get that first win. I don’t know. I don’t know right now if I’m looking at this as a big picture. I’m not into a first ACC win yet. I’ll guess it’ll set in eventually.

Post-game comments from NC State senior guard Nikitta Gartrell

On beating Maryland for the first time since 2005
I feel great. The seniors and I had a talk before the game, including [junior starting point guard] Amber [White] because we know it’s been five years since NC State has beaten Maryland. Maryland has always had a great team, even now. I think going into tonight’s game, we knew that we had to buckle down, play great defense and attack. We couldn’t have asked for a better game. . . .This was just a great team effort – the whole 40 minutes. High energy, tempo, up and down. And that’s how we like to play, and every game should be like this.

On maintaining that level of play throughout the ACC schedule
It’s going to be a tough challenge for us because sometimes we lack focus. . . . But I think we can do it because we practice so hard.

On the energy that Marissa Kastanek brings
The type of person that Marissa is, well, she’s very energetic. She’s always motivating the team. If we’re having a down day, Marissa is always there to pick us up. . . .

On grabbing 11 rebounds
Tonight Coach Kellie put on the [whiteboard before the game], “Relentless on the boards.” I knew that, well, first off, look at our team. We’re not the biggest team. . . . . You have to take pride in rebounding, which is what Coach Kellie always tells us. So, I have to use the advantage that I have, like speed. So if they’re not boxing you out, go get the ball. . . .  My teammates boxed out, and I just went to get the ball. I just felt like I had a nose for the ball tonight.

On getting focused for the next game (against Boston College on Sunday)
It’s not going to be as tough because we are used to practicing every day. We just have to get better each day like Coach Kellie is always telling us. This is a great win. Tomorrow we have off, but we still lift and have other things to do, and we’ll come in the next day, which we practice at Boston College, and we’ll get prepared for that game.

Post-game comments from NC State freshman guard Marissa Kastanek

On the team’s performance
I think we’ve just been practicing so hard. At first I thought it was weird that Kellie said, “Do the little things. Box out. Because you’re going to get the ball.” We just thought, “We don’t really need to box out. We can get the ball. We just need to jump.” But then we started realizing that if we do it and we deny that one pass or box out that one girl, the ball just starts coming our way. And I think tonight we figured that out. And from this point on we need to keep doing those little things because that will lead to victories in the end.

On her play
I’ve had a couple of games in a row where I didn’t perform for my team as well as I should have. Also, I’m hearing from all the seniors, “We’ve never beaten Maryland. We’ve never beaten Maryland.” So I’m doing it for them. I’m a freshman on the team. I, obviously, haven’t beaten Maryland. I wanted to beat Maryland, and these guys wanted to, and so I played my best to help them get their victory.

Post-game comments from Maryland head coach Brenda Frese

On the play of NC State
I thought NC State was incredible tonight. I thought they just played a lot more aggressive, more physical — what you’d expect from your first ACC game. . . . I thought that NC State’s defensive pressure gave us fits. . . . [W]e got out-worked, we got out-hustled, we got out-played.

On the biggest surprise from NC State
The first half they shot the ball extremely well. You expect that when a team is playing at home, but we didn’t respond very well to that. We dug ourselves too big of a hole. Credit their offense; they were ready to play.

On the difference between the style of this NC State team than those from years past
. . . . [H]ow scrappy they were and how they played hard for 40 minutes. There were no lapses and runs for you to get back in it. They never gave up. They never stopped competing. They kept pressing and playing hard. They were scrappy and out-worked us for 40 minutes.

(Photograph by Peyton Williams)

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